A Few Pictures, A Few Thoughts from the HNS Conference

The Historical Novel Society conference in San Diego was wonderful! Historical novelists are such interesting, funny and fascinating people. I enjoyed chatting with people at dinners, listening to authors and editors at workshops, volunteering, and dressing up!

My favorite session was put on my Karlee Turner Etter and was called Nineteenth Century Fashion, From the Inside Out.

Karlee started the session wearing only a corset over a chemise (and thus I learned that no woman would ever wear a corset against her skin, because then she would have to wash it regularly and that was difficult to do.)

Then, piece by piece, Karlee got dressed, and while she got dressed she explained what the pieces were called, how they were worn, how often they were washed, and all sorts of incredibly interesting facts. When she was all dressed this is how she looked:


This dress represents what a middle to upper middle class woman would have worn in the 1880s / 1890s in America, and thus is similar to how my own Miss Olivia Snow would dress.







I wore my own costume in the Saturday evening costume pageant. I had nothing to do with making it, and would thank its creator if I had her name. This dress was a gift, but my aunt and I did make the mobcap.










Thanks to author Christopher Cevasco for taking this picture during the costume pageant. Here’s another he took of everyone at the pageant:








And finally, I have two close-ups of my mobcap. My aunt was so generous in her skills, materials and work in creating this cap in time for the pageant. (Thanks to Princess Esmerelda for modeling the cap, though it was too big for her)





Note Princess Esmerelda’s cute little tail below the cap:

A Goodreads Giveaway

Have you discovered Goodreads.com? It’s a free, fun website for people who love to read. I’m excited about the discussion, bookclub, quizzes and many other activities and opportunities this forum provides. (Note: I’ve not been paid to say this.)

I’ve signed up as a Goodreads Author and am offering a free giveaway of The Stolen Goldin Violin.

The Goodreads giveaway details tell you how to sign up and win. Check it out!


I’m editing/revising and came across this typo


Rather than just delete the extra anti-, I started wondering what exactly an anti-antimacassar might be.

For those of you who do not know, in the nineteenth century, many men wore macassar oil in their hair. An antimacassar was a cloth cover, often crocheted or embroidered, placed on the top of a sofa or chair to keep the macassar oil off the furniture. Even after macassar oil went out of fashion, antimacassars remained.

I remember a number of chairs in my grandmother’s house that always had a lace antimacassar pinned to the top. Knowing my grandmother, she probably knew the original purpose of the antimacassar and used the lace just to achieve that nineteenth century look.

I picture an anti-antimacassar as a person involved in a movement to simplify interior design by getting rid of the unnecessary, embracing the modern. Of course this movement would not be gentle and pleasant, but rabid and controversial. An anti-antimacassar would be a militant interior designer, bent on molding the world to his/her specifications. What do you think?

I need to get back to revising. Revising is hard and thinking about anti-antimacassars was so much more fun.

Yes, I know, I’m weird.

Writing: The End

About thirty minutes ago I typed the last words to my fourth novel. What a great feeling!! I love finishing things.

Of course the words I typed might not be the “real” last words. The story is out, but I have many revisions to make. Today’s manuscript is not clean and ready to be read by a publisher / agent — but it’s close.

Wilde Wagers was both the hardest and the easiest book for me to write.

Easy, because Olivia Snow and Philip Lamb showed up regularly. I’ve never liked any characters as much as I like these two–really, they wrote themselves. The mystery and intrigue are complex, yet the tone is light-hearted. I was trying so hard to be literary and poetic in my first two novels that I think I struggled more writing them. Wilde Wagers is intended to be a fun romp, with mystery and romance thrown in.

Hard, because my mom loved this story. She loved Olivia and Genevieve, and every time we talked about the story and the characters, she always ended with one command: Write faster! I was writing fast, but not fast enough. After she died, I struggled with this story. How could I not? I had no one to talk to about these characters that she loved. Without her fire, my own spark went out. I couldn’t write anything, and when I did everything was flat and depressing.

I guess I have Olivia and Philip to thank for the end. They came to me and talked to me and pretty much demanded that the story be finished.

And now it is. I hope you get to read it some day.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Last week I was at the library and looking for something light to read and remembered hearing about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Many of you know that Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books. I’ve read it at least a dozen times and seen all the movie versions. Well, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies follows the original: all the same characters, saying the same things (word for word in many places), following the same plot, but every now and then the regular story pauses to accommodate a zombie attack. The Bennet girls have been trained in weaponry and physical combat, so the zombies pose no serious threat to the main characters.

This book is such fun! You know how when you re-read a favorite book, you know what is going to happen, but you re-read anyway because you enjoy the story and characters so much. Well, in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, you get to re-read a favorite and know everything that is going to happen, and you still get to be surprised.

I won’t pretend this book is for everyone. First off, I think you need to be a fan of Pride and Prejudice, and you also need to be open to having silly things happen to the characters in that literary classic.

Silly is sadly under-rated.

Waking to a Poem

Within fifteen minutes of waking, a poem had fully formed in my head:

After my grandmother died,
my mother told me of a dream
she had from time to time

In my mother’s dream,
my grandmother was alive
There’d been a mistake
She hadn’t died

It was a great relief, my mother said,
and her dream was filled with joy.
But when she awoke,
it was like losing her mother all over again.

I haven’t had that dream
I long for it

To discover that there was a mistake
that my mother is not dead
To see her again
to enjoy her company and conversation
her gentle and kind ways
her smile

I would gladly pay the price
of the pain of waking up and losing her

To be with her again, if only in a dream.

I believe in revision, and this poem has not been revised. I will revise it, over the next weeks and months and it will become a better poem.

But I had to post it today because today is my mother’s birthday.

Costume Dress

I was trying so hard to get the camera angle right, I forgot to smile.

I have wanted a nineteenth century gown for a long time.  How does one go about finding something like that?  I contacted the theater department at the university to find out what they do with costumes after a performance is over (answer:  they keep them).  I did learn that the department’s cutter/draper sometimes does freelance projects.  How could I possibly justify the cost?

Then, out of the blue, a friend who is moving asked me if I would like a regency gown she had had made for a costume party and will probably never wear again !!!!

I answered “yes” very quickly.

I hope to upload some better pictures soon, but for now these will have to do.  This is the full view.  I’m not too happy with how it looks, but that is more the fault of the person in the dress, than the dress itself.  (Note to self: make time to exercise!)

I’m hoping to take this to the Historical Novels Society conference in June (and get some better pictures).

When one of my historicals is finally published, I plan to do book signings in costume.  This could be one of the costumes, but I will probably hire that draper to make a costume that is more era-appropriate depending on which book I’m selling.  Charlotte’s Inheritance and Syncopation are both mid-nineteenth century, while Wilde’s Wager is late nineteenth century.

I guess I’ll just have to write a book to go with my new regency-era, Jane Austen-style gown!

Selling Syncopation

In my novel Syncopation, Adele Hugo writes her memoirs, and as she writes she sometimes argues with her sister.  These pieces of dialog fall outside the main narrative and are indicated by italics.

All of the people who have read only the first few chapters of  Syncopation comment that the dialog between the sisters is confusing and should be dropped.  All of the people who have read the entire manuscript say that the dialog between the sisters is brilliant, the best part of the story.

At one point, I took the suggestion about removing the dialog and revised for many months.  The story fell apart.  I put it back together, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good.  So, I’ve “trashed” that revision and continue to try to pitch the version with the dialog.

You see, as the memoir progress, the dialog develops and merges with the ongoing narrative.  The reason for it becomes apparent.

How can I get people to want to keep reading in order to see how good that part of the story is?  In particular, how can I get agents and editors to keep reading?  I’ve been hesitant to explain all of this in my query letter, but should I?  My query letter is getting responses, but my first few chapters do not.

Any ideas?

Getting It Done

But what is “it” ?

Yesterday I had a long list of things I needed to do.  I was quite busy until about 4:00, when I looked at my list to cross things off and discovered I’d actually only finished one of the jobs.  I had partially completed a few more, but I had yet to begin the majority of things on my list.

How do writers get things done?  If you follow my blog, you’ll notice how rarely I post.  How do other bloggers post so regularly?  How do they have the time?   I read the blogs of other writers and am just shocked at how often they post.  Do they do anything else?  Do they work on their novels?  Do they have families?  Do they exercise? clean their homes? eat?

I suppose with better time management, I could improve, but then I wonder if there isn’t some other problem at work.  As Landon Parke-Laine said,

I’m trying to figure out whether the lack of progress is writer’s block, procrastination, idleness or just plain incompetence. –Jasper Fforde, Thursday Next First Among Sequels

It’s comforting to see other writers struggle with this problem too (even if they are fictional).

Losing and Winning

Thanks to all of you who voted for me in the Pitchapalooza contest.  I was not a winner, but I did get a bite from a literary agent who liked my pitch.  She is reading the manuscript now.

So, even losers can be winners.

Not that I’m calling myself a loser . . . .

’cause I’m not, you know . . .